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Edwin Alonzo Boyd

Edwin Alonzo Boyd (April 2, 1914May 17, 2002) was a Canadian criminal and leader of the Boyd Gang. His career made him a notorious Canadian folk hero.

Early life

In the early 1920s, heavy-handed police officer Glover Boyd tried to get his eldest son Edwin to play the violin, among other things, but Eddie would have none of it. An athletic Ed became a drifter after Glover signed him up to work on his uncle Christian's farm, riding the rails during the Great Depression and getting into trouble with the law.

When World War II came he enlisted, went overseas, married there and had three children. After the war he came back to his hometown Toronto and got a job driving a streetcar. One day, however, after quitting his job driving the streetcar he was pondering how to make a living when he read a newspaper article about an autistic kid robbing a bank with no gun and almost getting away so the next day, he took a German Luger pistol he had taken from a dead German soldier in France, put on a disguise and robbed a bank.

The Gang is born

Eddie joined up with another robber and carried out several other bold bank robberies. He had a reputation for jumping over counters, moving quickly, and carrying a gun. His partner, old Howard Gault, got caught and told all. They both went to the Don Jail in Toronto. While Eddie and his partner were robbing banks, another more violent gang was also doing the same thing. Lennie Jackson, a member of this gang, was caught at the same time as Eddie, and they soon began to swap notes. Soon another experienced bank robber, Willie Jackson, aka "The Clown", (no relation to Lennie) arrived at the Don awaiting transfer to the Kingston Penitentiary for a seven-year sentence.

Lennie Jackson had lost a foot in a railway accident and had a wooden foot in which he had stored several hacksaw blades.

Over the Wall

On November 4, 1951, Eddie and the Jacksons hacksawed the bars and went over the wall and escaped. They met a friend, Valent Lesso from Cochrane, one of the violent members of Lennie Jackson’s original gang, and the four became a team. Lesso was a talented musician who couldn’t find work; he changed his name to Steve Suchan and became a bank robber. They soon pulled off a series of robberies, including the biggest one in Toronto history. The newspapers dubbed the new group “the Boyd Gang,” seeing Eddie as the brains behind the operation. Willie Jackson was arrested and sent to the Don Jail. Eddie went into hiding with his wife Dorreen.

On March 6, 1952 Detective Sergeant Edmund Tong aka 'The Chinaman' and his partner pulled over a suspicious car at a Toronto intersection. The car contained Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson working on their own. A gun fight ensued, and Suchan killed Detective Tong. They were later wounded and captured in a gun fight and ended up again in the Don Jail, charged with murder. Eddie Boyd was tracked down and caught in bed beside an attaché case full of money, and five loaded pistols. Eddie was put in a jail cell with his two buddies. They became friendly with one of the older guards. As the pretence of a joke, one of the gang members grabbed the guard's key ring and gripped it tightly while kibbitzing and joking with the guard. When he let go of the key, an impression was left in his hand and in short order they fashioned a key for the cell door and slipped out briefly. When the guards were not around they hack-sawed a window in preparation for escape. To be able to fit out the small opening, they all went on a diet. Just before Suchan and Jackson were to stand trial, on Sept 8, 1952 they escaped the Don for a second time. The biggest manhunt in Canadian history ensued, with a large reward — to be specific, a then-perhaps overindulgent $26,000 CAN — offered for information leading to their capture. Several jail staff were fired and a Royal Commission was set up to review the circumstances of their escape.

This was a period of newspaper wars fifty years ago this year, and every detail of the Boyd Gang’s activity and attempts at their capture were reported in headlines across the country. There were reports of sighting across Ontario and Quebec. Local police officers traveled in pairs and were well armed.

Arrest and Release

They received numerous calls from residents in West Ferris and Powassan, Ontario, and from a druggist in North Bay. None of them panned out. After ten days, men were seen at a barn in the Don Valley, only a mile from the jail, and the Boyd Gang was captured without incident. Now Boyd was the only gang member left to be captured. Detective Adolphus 'Dolph' Payne had kept Boyd's brother Norman under surveillance and discovered that he had rented a flat on Heath Street, but hadn't moved in yet. He secured a key to the back door from the owner. Payne then watched, from a neighbour's house, as Boyd moved into the flat. Wanting to avoid a shootout, he waited until he was sure everyone was asleep. At the crack of dawn the police crept inside the house and captured Boyd and his wife while they were still in bed. Boyd's brother, who was sleeping in another room, was also apprehended. No shootouts, no struggle, not even a whimper. The Toronto Nugget reported the event by stating “Edwin Alonzo Boyd, Canada’s Public Enemy Number One, surrendered meekly with his henchmen to two suburban detectives, ending the greatest criminal man hunt in the Dominion’s history.” One of these officers was Detective Sergeant Maurice Richardson who had a brother, Murray, living in North Bay.

Eddie got eight life sentences and Willie Jackson got thirty years. Steve Suchan and Lennie Jackson were sentenced to death for killing Detective Tong. On December 16, 1952 Steve Suchan, after a brief visit with his mother, and Lennie Jackson with his wife, received the last rites and waited for their 8 am execution. To their surprise, the executioner came at midnight, and by 12:14 am they were both dead, hung back to back.

Willie Jackson and Eddie Boyd were both released in 1966. Eddie, under an assumed name, went to British Columbia, where he drove a bus for disabled people and married a disabled woman whom he met on the bus. He took care of her for the next 35 years, until recently when they went into a home. Two books have been written on the Boyd Gang, and one was made into a successful movie. In 1998 Eddie was featured in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Life and Times documentary, where he admitted that he had committed many more robberies than he had been charged with.

On May 17, 2002, after a visit from his wife and his son, and a phone call from his former war bride and the mother of his three children, Edwin Alonzo Boyd died at age 88.

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